The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

I liked reading this at Buzzfeed:

TAMA, Iowa — Lindsey Graham was in the full swing of his pitch to a group of potential voters gathered at a VFW hall in this small town an hour outside Des Moines on Saturday when, while he was talking about his relatively liberal stance on immigration, there came an unwelcome interruption.

“Towel heads,” grumbled a man sitting at the bar, sporting a denim shirt with the arms cut off. “Sand n*****s.”

Graham did what every candidate must in the age of smartphones and opposition trackers following a candidate anywhere he or she goes.

“I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” Graham said. “What I would say is that what he said is not who I am. I’m not running to be president to please this guy.” He then moved on and continued on taking questions from the other attendees.

At this early stage, running for president can be a weird thing — especially in these tiny, intimate gatherings where people are able to to speak their minds. In an earlier era, maybe before a woman once notoriously insisted to John McCain that Barack Obama was an Arab, Graham could probably have gotten away with ignoring the man; today, he had to act.

But Graham is also a long-shot candidate without much to lose, and his response ended up being different from the kind of tight-lipped, efficient shutdown one could imagine coming from someone for whom the stakes are higher. A few minutes after the exchange, Graham concluded his spiel to the 15 or so people assembled in the dark, low-ceilinged room by drawing a comparison between his own hardscrabble upbringing in a bar in small town South Carolina and people like the man who had issued the slurs.

“I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear that I don’t believe. I changed a long time ago as a politician. I was scared to death of going into a room to be disagreed with. I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel free. I feel able to tell you exactly what I believe and why I believe it,” Graham said….

I hope Buzzfeed doesn’t mind that long quote. I wanted you to have full context. But I urge you to go on and read the whole thing. It has a nice ending.

The event had been billed as “Politics and Pool,” and before leaving, Lindsey wanted to shoot pool with somebody. The only person willing to play was the blowhard. So our senior senator played him, and beat him.

Quoth Graham: “I wanted to beat him. I was going to beat him if it’s the last thing I did in Iowa.”

10 thoughts on “The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’ve said it before — I think it would be a blast to be involved in the Graham presidential campaign, for however long it lasts. He’s not going to win, so he might as well say whatever he thinks. None of that worrying over every word that you get with contenders. Sort of a real-life version of “Let Bartlet be Bartlet.”

    There were a few days that he wasn’t like that, right after the Charleston massacre — when he was all mealy-mouthed about the flag. But now he seems back to himself, and that makes him more fun to watch…

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    Dissociate =/= disassociate
    –Ms. Language-Person
    “Keeping the English language safe since 1981!”

      1. Jeff Mobley

        I looked it up right when I read it, and I was surprised to find both dissociate and disassociate on

  3. Doug Ross

    “15 or so people assembled in the dark, low-ceilinged room”

    That’s pretty depressing when a kook like Bernie Sanders can fill a stadium with 10,000 people.

    Lindsey isn’t even going to make the stage for the first Republican debate in August. Only the top 10 will be there and currently, Lindsey is in about 13th place. He’ll be relegated to a meaningless forum for the also-rans on the same morning. Maybe Lindsey, Bobby Jindal, Santorum, and Pataki can shoot some pool.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think your assessment of Lindsey’s chances are well-founded.

      But only 15 people at an event doesn’t indicate that. That’s pretty small, but it’s also common, even sometimes with candidates who are going to win. I know that from traveling with candidates back in the day. The big crowds are relatively rare peaks on a flat, boring landscape of one little group of voters after another…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Suddenly I’m flashing on a campaign stop Lamar Alexander made in 1978 at a black disco in Nashville. It was one of the most incongruous settings for a candidate I’ve ever seen, as Lamar was so whitebread — if you heard him or Pat Boone (who was doing some public service announcements at that time) on the radio, it was hard to tell at first which one you were hearing. And they looked a little alike.

        Aside from his campaign aides, there were probably not more than 15 people in the place, which had a tiny dance floor, less than 10 feet square.

        And he went on to win…

  4. Karen Pearson

    I appreciate Sen. Lindsay’s nerve in saying that; I applaud his willingness to play pool with the man afterwards; I’m really, really glad he won.

  5. Norm Ivey

    Watch this clip of <a href= talking about Joe Biden. I like him, and I like much of his politics. These kinds of things just raise his standing in my eyes.


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